Subject: What's high in the middle, and round on either end? (You know who you are.)
The 90th semi-annual contest. Holy mackerel.
It's unseemly to critique a contest you helped to run, even though I was just a backbencher for this one. But Ohio Players deserve major kudos for a key behind-the-scenes decision: not listening to me.
In the closing days of April, Steve Homer sounded the email alarm because the contest was hugely unready. Creatively, structurally, logistically, most of the work had yet to be done. Because the team was so undermanned, my advice was to postpone the contest. Having seen a lot of contests get built from the inside, the regularly scheduled date seemed unreachable.
I have to assume that a few Ohio workplaces got defrauded for the next week and a half, because Sean and Steve and the rest of the Players somehow cleared their calendars and whipped the contest from a small pile of good intentions into playable shape and then some. This is NOT the standard result. So that's what I'll probably remember best about the May 2011 contest... that it actually happened in May 2011!
I spent the night juggling IMs. The highlight requires some slight backstory. A couple of weeks back, longtime player Eric Lindholm sent me a random email after hearing the Paul McCartney hit "Coming Up" on the radio. He just wanted to thank me for forever tainting that song in his mind, by linking it to a question about puking.
Shortly afterwards, Steve sent out the on-air packet for suggestions and revisions. The question about the amber translucence and complex texture of fake plastic vomit was linked to... you guessed it... "Coming Up." I mentioned Eric's email to Steve and beseeched him to choose another song, any other song.
Jump to the night of the contest. One of my IM connections is Eric (playing solo as "Knife Wrench"). The plastic vomit question arrives. He ID's the replacement song in approximately five seconds, but gets totally stuck on the vomit answer. With time running out, I give Eric one last targeted hint: "What if I told you Steve had originally chosen a particular Paul McCartney song match?"
Boom! 2 points for Knife Wrench!
Though the final scores don't reflect it, Eric also played a major role in an insanely tight race. A race squeezed by the now-usual asterisk, but a tight race nonetheless.
It was just the third one-point win in 90 contests, tying it for the fourth-closest contest ever. (There have been three overtime games.) Alas, that's more a product of the degraded competitive landscape than a tooth-and-nail battle, but Trivia has become more and more of an exhibition game as teams break down into scattered cellular units. Knife Wrench ended up in 9th place, but they were leading the contest after six hours. Did I say "they"? I meant he.
It had been a neck-and-neck race with Geezers on Stun. The teams' 2:00 AM halftime score was 102-102. (The Geezers roster was eight returnees representing the 1980s glory days of Phasers on Stun, with a touch of late-70s BOMO/Pros From Dover/Grape Nehi in the form of Mitch Katz.) These two teams swapped the top position several times over the first six hours. However, neither of these leaders had the goal of winning.
The last question answered by the Geezers was #81; Knife had gone to bed after #71. Neither team handed in the 8th Hour Bonus (Broadway), and each of the two teams only got perfunctory "Present, sir!" scores on the second Super Bonus (3 for Knife, 2 for Geezers). This lack of a home stretch opened the door for the unfaltering steady pace of the Second Place Stars, who spent the entire night in that cluster of teams near 3rd place before making their final move.
Remarkably, the champions were in first place just twice. The first time was after the first question, when their total stood at 2. (An 11-way tie!) The second time was when the final scores were announced.
Second Place Stars' 1-point margin of victory could be attributed to their late 4-point Ultra solution... or their 15-2 edge on the Disney Super... or their 9 on-air points after Geezers had ceased answering. Hell, you can find that 202nd point almost anywhere if you want to. Oddly, the 8th Hour Bonus wasn't a factor, since Second Place Stars also chose not to submit it. I'm not sure we've seen a contest before where BOTH of the top two teams ate a zero on the last bonus.
This less-than-feverish competition also played a role in the incredibly tight point spread: 202-201-193-192-187. Nonetheless, it's worth noting. There have been other contests which matched or surpassed the top end of that spectrum, but I believe that 5th-place Grill Steak was nearest to the winning score of any 5th-place team. Further research is needed, but will not be done.
Another scoring oddity: Second Place Stars may have been the first team to win the contest without finishing with the highest total in any single element of it. The closest they came was on the Disney Super, where they finished 1 point behind Obstacle Course. They were also 1 point behind on the Superhero Origins Hour, and 2 points behind on the Celebrity Yearbook Hour.
Here are the top scorers for each contest element:
|ON-AIR TOTAL||The Mighty Sword of Teamwork (and the Hammer of Not Bickering)||163||3|
|SUPER #1 (Baseball)||Where's the Kid When You Need Her? (aka Quiet, Please; aka Dashing Dom Grillo by his lonesome)||24||1|
|SUPER #2 (Disney)||The Phineas & Ferb Edge of Insanity, Kiss-Your-Butt-Goodbye, Gravity is a Stone Cold Sucker Nightmare Rail Skate Track Obstacle Course of Doom||16||1|
|HOUR #1 (Band Name Origins)||Knife Wrench... for Kids!||7||2|
|HOUR #2 (National Parks)||Where's the Kid When You Need Her?||7||2|
|HOUR #3 (Jotto)||We're Here to Win Trivia and Grill Steak||6||1|
|HOUR #4 (Celebrity Yearbook)||Geezers on Stun; Grill Steak; Obstacle Course of Doom; What is an Oprah?; Your Tuckus, My Basement||5||1|
|HOUR #5 (TV Network Audio)||Grill Steak||8||1|
|HOUR #6 (Kitchen)||Tuckus||9||1|
|HOUR #7 (Superhero Origins)||Grill Steak||6||1|
|HOUR #8 (Broadway)||Cupcake of DOOM||8||2|
|HALFTIME BONUS (Road Trip)||Geezers on Stun||5||1|
|ULTRA BONUS (SNL cast)||Knife Wrench; Geezers on Stun||8||4|
The 18th-place Cupcake certainly must be one of the lowest-finishing teams to get the top score on a bonus.
(Though I have a nagging sensation that I'm omitting somebody in the last ten contests.)
Congratulations to Second Place Stars. It's always good to anticipate what a new team will do with its first time running the show.
The next contest will mark the 25th anniversary of the original Tonga cataclysm, in which a very hard-fought game was lost by 1/15th of 1 point, in overtime, on the incorrect answer "Tonga."
For the Ohio Players' contest, we found out that all Tongan students are obligated to study juggling-- but only the girls. It's simply amazing to me that this serendipitous island country STILL manages to produce fresh wacky facts after all this time and attention. I thought the world's oldest turtle was going to be our last great Tonga find. Now I have no such illusions.
For the first time since around 1982 or 1983, there were no Action Trivia. However, that ship has pretty well sailed. (And sunk.)
Among the on-air questions I didn't write, I liked the one about Bill Paxton being killed by an Alien, a Predator and a Terminator. I really liked the one about DC Comics having to shut down its message boards because of escalating abuse and TOS violations regarding "Who would win a race: Superman or the Flash?" And I loved the question about the member of the NFL Hall of Fame who'd helped to construct the building.
Favorite song matches (non-me division) included "Winning" for the Charlie Sheen question, "I Like It" for the secret Israeli raid given away on Facebook, "Gimme Three Steps" for the Electric Slide complaints, "Dynamite" for the Ig/Nobel Prize winner, and "Are We Ourselves?" for the cheating track and field twins.
As for my limited contribution, I shall remain quietly proud at having introduced the phrase "radioactive sperm" to the Trivia archives.
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